Americans 6 Rebels 3
KENNEWICK, Wash. — After watching his team come out on the short end of the score one more time by ignoring the basics of the game, Brent Sutter had finally seen enough.
The Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach unloaded on his players following a hugely disappointing 6-3 WHL loss to the Tri-City Americans Tuesday and was still fuming a good 25 minutes later.
And who could blame him, considering the Rebels were up 3-1 early in the third period before coughing up five goals, including a trio in a span of under three minutes?
“It’s B.S., it’s not right. It’s wrong,” said Sutter, with more than a tad of disgust in his voice. “We can’t stay with a team game when we’re fighting for our lives to make the playoffs.”
The Rebels looked to be in great shape when Brett Davis skated into the low slot and buried a feed from Cam Hausinger just 1:12 into the final frame. The power-play tally, Red Deer’s first in 20 man-advantage situations dating back several games, gave the visitors a nifty two-goal lead on the final stop of a five-game US Division trip.
But then it all fell apart, inexcusable for a team that hadn’t played since Saturday and was facing a club that had played in Kamloops the night before.
“You come on this road trip and have a chance to go home .500 on it, and you’re playing a team that travelled eight hours last night to get home,” said Sutter.
“It’s just stupid hockey, there’s no team game involved in the third period. You’re up 3-1 in the third and you start cheating, giving up odd-man rushes.”
The Rebels were truly the better team through the first 40 minutes and the 2-1 count absolutely flattered the home team.
Brandon Hagel opened the scoring a mere 28 seconds into the contest when he bolted down the right side, cut across the high slot and beat netminder Beck Warm for his 33rd of the season.
The Americans pulled even later in the period on somewhat of a fluke goal, with Aaron Hyman’s wayward shot from the left circle glancing off teammate Parker AuCoin and past Red Deer goalie Ethan Anders.
But Chris Douglas restored Red Deer’s lead with just over six minutes left in the opening stanza, cashing a rebound of a Brett Davis shot.
The second period was scoreless despite the fact the Rebels generated a large handful of excellent opportunities and pretty much dominated the first 15 minutes.
But the frustration of being blanked in a period they carried was at least temporarily quelled when Davis scored 72 seconds into the third, temporarily being the key word.
Riley Sawchuk closed the gap to 3-2 at 4:17, Sasha Mutala pulled the Americans even 60 seconds later, and AuCoin notched a power-play goal — and the eventual winner — at 6:43.
“When you’re up a goal or down a goal you can not be giving up odd-man rushes,” said Sutter. “It’s just stupid hockey. You have players getting caught out tired, not coming off when they should be coming off.
“It just makes me sick. You work on this (bleep) every day in practice, all year long, yet we can’t implement it in a game.”
The Rebels earned three of a possible 10 points on the southern jaunt and are just two clear of Brandon for the final playoff berth, a wild-card position, in the Eastern Conference.
Next up are the Central Division leading Edmonton Oil Kings, Friday in the provincial capital and Saturday at the Centrium.
Clearly, things won’t get any easier this weekend, but the Rebels will have to buckle down and earn at least a split by playing a shut-down style if and when they get a lead.
Sutter’s not so sure his players have the proper mindset to carry through.
“There’s not enough pride in wanting to shut it down. There’s not enough pride, everyone’s worried about getting their cookies,” said the Rebels boss.
“It’s not right, leaving our goalie hanging out to dry in the third period. We’ve had so few wins since December because of exactly what happened in the third period here tonight.
“They just don’t want to buy into it because it requires work. It requires guys to be smart and stick to a team game plan. They can’t stay focused for 60 minutes.
“I thought our defence was fine tonight but our forwards aren’t doing enough. They’re not playing the game the right way. It can’t turn around unless they buy into it, unless they want to do it. It requires them to stay mentally and physically engaged the whole game.
“You’re up 3-1 in the third on the road, you should be able to shut it down. Instead we start cheating and giving up odd-man rushes. I’m so sick of it, so tired of it. There’s no urgency and that’s what really bothers me. If you cared, you’d correct it.”